The Crass Vigilance of The Soft Drink Molochs and Their Slow Throttling
of the American Public For Loaves and Fishes
The American Beverage Association (ABA) sells some of the most popular non-alcoholic
beverages in the world. Carbonated soft drinks make up 73% of that total. Americans
spend roughly $93 billion annually on refreshment beverages (about $357/person).
The ABA believes that all beverages are part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle
and helps this along by producing various sized beverages so as to incorporate
different, that is larger, serving portions into diets.
This is what the ABA says about itself. Let us stop here for a moment.
$93 billion in refreshment beverages. $93 billion -- why? What has Americans
hooked? Caffeine, yes, but the ABA sells 7-Up and Sprite, which contain no caffeine,
if we believe the PR and product labeling (which the ABA is fighting to get
rid of). But even more disturbing is the contention that soft drinks are part
of a healthy diet. Which healthy diet? Whose -- Atkins'? Other than the ABA,
who else makes the same claim? But it sounds good, so people believe it. After
all, the ABA is an authority. In reality, this claim about soft drinks being
part of a healthy diet is specious.
What are these profits? With approximately 122.5 billion servings/year (or
471 soft drinks/person/year), the soft drink industry rakes in about $93 billion.
Of course, no mention is made of the fact that 43% of those profits are from
government subsidies, what is colloquially called "corporate welfare."
Fifty-seven percent of $93 billion is about $53 billion. How does a $53 billion/year
business rate a subsidy when so many Americans are in dire straits? How is it
that the corporate sector can receive welfare when such subsidies are shameful
for the individual and considered a wasteful expense?
One of the answers lies in bought friends in the government: our Senators and
Representatives. In 2005, however, things became even more secure: the ABA hired,
as Senior Vice President for Communications, Kevin Keane who was Assistant Secretary
of Public Affairs at Health and Human Services (HHS). He was an advisor to Tommy
Thompson. He was hired to direct the strategic communications program, read
propaganda. That is, the ABA managed to acquire an inside touch. Mr. Keane can
help science along in support of the ABA, as Mr. Bush helps science support
his rapacious programs.
Another answer lies in corn subsidies and sugar tariffs.
What this means is that Coke and Pepsi's profit margins are supported by government
taxes, thanks to corn grower subsidies. A subsidy is used to help the farmer
make up the loss between cost to produce and higher marketing costs. That is,
if a farmer spends $1 to produce one bushel of corn but market value is 80 cents,
the government makes up the other 20 cents -- plus a little more so the farmer
can make a profit. Thus, there is complicity with the Department of Agriculture.
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is the biggest player in this market and the most
prominent recipient of corporate welfare, which costs the government billions
but people tens of billions (in higher prices and higher taxes). While $1 of
corn sweetener profits costs you, the consumer, $10, the government paid $49
billion in corn subsidies from 1995-2004.
ADM buys 12% of the nation's corn and turns it into High Fructose Corn
We are bilked because part of the money to pay these subsidies comes from our
taxes. We are, in effect, paying twice to drink a Coke or Pepsi. This means
that buying corn and making High Fructose Corn Syrup -- not a naturally occurring
substance -- is far cheaper than using sugar. Why? Sugar tariffs. A tariff is
a tax placed on some substance or other that is imported. Sugar. Sugar tariffs
give us $2.25/lb of sugar; without the tariff that would perhaps be $1/lb. Thus,
by way of putting a ceiling on homegrown sugar production, the tariffs inflate
the cost of sugar and deflate the cost of corn, which means importing more sugar.
So, ADM prefers to buy excessive corn at excessively low prices. This equals
not only great savings but indecent profits. In order for ADM and the ABA to
wreak obscene profits, we must pay more.
How does this corn subsidy-sugar tariff affect the soft drink behemoths? A
six cent increase in sweetener amounts to $6.1 billion; a one cent increase
to, $1.2 billion; a 1/10 of a cent increase, $122.5 million.
Fructose is about 75% sweeter than cane sugar (sucrose), so Coke and Pepsi don't
have to use very much fructose to attain an equal sweetness. But the cola goliaths
found a way to concentrate -- make stronger -- fructose. To create sucrose's
sweetness an even smaller amount of High Fructose Corn Syrup
is needed. Although fructose is naturally occurring, High Fructose Corn Syrup
is not. Creating more of a conundrum is the fact that most all of the corn used
to make High Fructose Corn Syrup is genetically modified, seedlings that ADM
sold and then buys back as ripe corn to make into High Fructose Corn Syrup.
And herein lies a problem: the ABA claims that High Fructose Corn Syrup is natural.
This "naturally occurring" sugar substance -- High Fructose Corn
Syrup -- is the ABA's attack on science and public concern over the ill effects
of High Fructose Corn Syrup:
Obesity and diabetes are serious health problems in the U.S. that deserve
meaningful and effective interventions, not the shallow gestures advocated
today. Current Nutrition Facts Panels and labels on soft drinks already provide
consumers with key information they need to make the beverage choices that
are right for them, including information on calories, sugar, caffeine, sodium,
and other contents. To ask the FDA for warnings labels on soft drinks, or
any food products that contain caloric sweeteners, patronizes consumers and
lacks common sense. Where would such a food “hit list” stop? Even
skim milk and thousands of other food products could potentially fit into
a CSPI labeling scheme because of the sugars contained in those products.
(Press release of 13 July 2005)
Warnings about possible dangers to our health are "patronizing"?
It lacks "common sense"? Skim milk "and thousands of other food
products" (many of them sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup) could
potentially fit into a CSPI "labeling scheme"? Why no mention of High
Fructose Corn Syrup? I can't answer these ridiculous questions but I can answer
the ABA's question about where "such a food 'hit list'" would stop:
at the healthy foods--which means all foods not manufactured by the ABA, ADM,
Cargill, Monsanto and Atria.
Why would the ABA feel constrained to make such erroneous assertions if there
was nothing harmful about High Fructose Corn Syrup? In 2004, the ABA released
nine articles discrediting scientific evidence of the problems with High Fructose
Corn Syrup. Why is the ABA so defensive if High Fructose Corn Syrup is "safe
and natural"? (Cf. press release of 2 August 2005)
The scientific evidence, the medical evidence, is that High Fructose Corn Syrup
causes obesity and leads to type 2 diabetes. This trend in obesity in America
correlates to the ABA's beginning of sweetening their drinks with High Fructose
Corn Syrup in 1995. Such reports can be found in The American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, Medical Study News, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology
and Metabolism and The Journal of the American Medical Association.
But for the ABA, the problem is lifestyle. In the ABA's sophistry, they quote
from The European Journal of Epidemiology (2003:18): "Contrary
to popular belief, data do not suggest a higher proportion of sucrose in the
diet increases risk for type 2 diabetes independent of body fatness." Excuse
me, Kathleen Dezio (ABA spokeswoman who penned this press release of 24 August
2004), but the medical profession isn't faulting sucrose: the problem is High
Fructose Corn Syrup.
Here, too, is another addictive substance: sugars. If sugars are addictive,
a highly concentrated sugar would be more addictive, as big tobacco found with
nicotine. Not an untoward parallel, for Phillip Morris is a major player in
the food racket -- under the name of Atria. (Cf. www.navdanya.org)
As may be remembered, Phillip Morris was the corporation that knowingly peddled
addictive substances in the form of cigarettes, including to children. Aren't
the ethics here a little slim? Phillip Morris is also the largest producer of
foods that stock the shelves of supermarkets, foods high in High Fructose Corn
Syrup. This corn syrup has spread throughout the food supply in the U.S. Here
again, we have an ethics breach: In the mid-1990's, ADM was the object of an
FBI probe into price fixing.
Research shows that High Fructose Corn Syrup raises triglyceride levels, which
increases the risk of heart disease (triglycerides are fats in the blood). Another
study found that fructose-rich diets have other deleterious effects, including
glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and liver dysfunction. (Richard Wasnich
and Jon Ruckle, Radiunt Research). The increase in diabetes, particularly early
onset diabetes, is certainly related to this new additive in the American diet.
(Cf. "Report of the International Obesity Task Force of the World Health
Organization," New York Times, 31 Oct 2003) Indeed, further research
showed an 80% increase in risk of type 2 diabetes when people consumed High
Fructose Corn Syrup -- and not in huge doses. All it took was one soft drink
or fruit drink per day. Walter C. Willett of the Harvard School
of Public Health says, "Anyone who cares about their health or the health
of their family would not consume these beverages." There are even doctors
from Yale University Center backing such reports. (Cf. Vandana Shiva, Stolen
of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of
obesity" by George A. Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen and Barry M. Popkins,
the authors found that the consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup increased
1000% between 1970 and 1990. In 2000, High Fructose Corn Syrup represented 42%
of all sweeteners. Although HFCS-42 was initially the only High Fructose Corn
Syrup component, by the early 1980's, HFCS-55 had become the major source, constituting
61% of all High Fructose Corn Syrup in use in 2000. (HFCS-42 is 1.16 times --
116% -- as sweet as sucrose; HFCS-55 is 1.28 times as sweet.) Bray, et al.,
also found that the increased use of High Fructose Corn Syrup in the U.S. mirrors
the rapid increase in obesity.
However, from the public health perspective, the question of whether there
are other agents that could trigger the present obesity epidemic must be looked
into. These are such things as reduced levels of physical activity, a decrease
in smoking, increased portion sizes, eating out (and at fast food restaurants)
and changes in the kinds of foods eaten. Nevertheless, the introduction of High
Fructose Corn Syrup and the increased drinking of soft drinks and other sweetened
beverages has led to increases in total caloric consumption.
Unlike glucose -- the sugar that sucrose turns into during digestion -- fructose
does not stimulate insulin secretion because it bypasses the pancreas. Insulin
acts in the regulation of food intake and body weight. As glucose enters cells
by a transport mechanism that is insulin-dependent in most tissues, glucose
can be metabolized in any cell. In contrast, fructose enters cells via a transport
system that does not depend on insulin. This transport system is absent from
the pancreas and the brain, which indicates limited entry of fructose into those
tissues. Thus, while glucose provides satiety signals to the brain, as it were,
fructose cannot provide this because it is not transported into the brain. Thus,
insulin appetite control, the sense of being full, is non-existent with fructose
-- or High Fructose Corn Syrup -- use. This suggests that sweetened beverages
enhance overeating, for a higher insulin concentration inhibits food intake.
Thus, the lower insulin concentrations induced by High Fructose Corn Syrup enhance
Another concern is that High Fructose Corn Syrup is metabolized in the liver
where it is converted into the chemical backbone of triglycerides (see above).
That is, Havel also attests to High Fructose Corn Syrup bypassing the pancreas
and the sugar-insulin controlled equation.
In the U.S., High Fructose Corn Syrup is found in almost all foods, including
soft drinks, fruit drinks, candied fruits, canned fruits, dairy desserts, flavored
yogurts, most baked goods, cereals and jellies. Over 60% of the calories in
apple juice comes from fructose. High Fructose Corn Syrup is ubiquitous. Lists
of foods containing High Fructose Corn Syrup can be obtained from organizations
concerned with related allergies; that is, High Fructose Corn Syrup causes allergies.
Yet another unwelcome side effect. (See also www.foodfacts.info/blog)
And to think... Americans consume about 63 lbs. of High Fructose Corn Syrup
In the face of all of this scientific and medical proof of the ill effects
of High Fructose Corn Syrup, the ABA has only misleading, specious press releases...
and government compliance. That is, not only does the ABA not care whether U.S.
citizens sicken and die, neither does the government.
Jim Secor is a freelance writer currently living and working
in China. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.